BLESSED is the one word I would use to describe my ostomy journey.
The theme song for my journey would be “I’m Still Standing”
Briefly share your illness journey, what was the diagnosis, how long were you ill, and was the decision to have ostomy surgery yours or was there an emergency operation.
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 17 and struggled with colitis for 14 years in and out of remissions. I had a hemorrhage while driving to work on December 21, 1979 and came close to bleeding out.
What was your biggest fear?
That I would die and not be there for my kids.
Was there something you were worried you would not be able to do after your ostomy surgery?
I feared I would not be able to go back to work and continue to develop a career. I was on a development pathway and the company was not supportive of people who had handicaps.
Did those fears become a reality or were you surprised you could actually do what you were worried you couldn’t?
Actually, it was a day-by-day journey that took a couple of years. I was promoted five years after my surgery and finally regained my status as a top sales leader.
How has your ostomy changed you?
For years I felt isolated and unable to communicate my fears and any aspect of my story. It made me a closed off loner. Every time I shared my story, it led to an unfortunate outcome.
Now, through counseling and learning to accept my life experiences, I am able to tell the story and be proud of accomplishments and struggles.
What helped you most during your recovery?
My surgeon challenged me to become a runner. He encouraged me to run in a 10-mile race five months after surgery. I got hooked on working out. Now, 40 years later the gym provides me with steady feedback that I can do it.
Did something help prepare you for your operation? If so, what was it?
No, I was terrified before my surgery and was afraid a prediction made by a callous GI physician that I would never reach the age of 40 was going to come true.
What do you wish someone had told you before your ostomy operation?
That I would make it.
Was there a specific WOC Nurse or a doctor who helped you that you’d like to thank? (Name/hospital, city, state)
Dr. Rene Menguy my surgeon. He saved my life and then challenged me physically to rebuild myself and stop feeling sorry for myself. He gave my first jump rope and running shoes. He died on 4/7/19 at 93 years of age.